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Using Netscape Composer to produce clean code

From: Bruce Bailey <bbailey@clark.net>
Date: Mon, 16 Nov 1998 15:24:37 -0500
Message-ID: <36508A05.8A519237@clark.net>
To: WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
My usual strategy of steadfast procrastination in the face of
frustration has worked wonders for me once again!

Really, despite the many suggestions from this group, I had given up on
this idea.  In practice, my job duties changed for a while and I was not
able to do much html authoring at all, let alone teach anyone else!  I
am optimistic that I'll be back to working our site at least half time
after the new year.  In anticipation of this I revisited this idea.

I am pleased to report that Netscape Composer 4.05/4.06 (and presumably
4.5+ and latter too, I haven't tried) no longer has the unacceptable
behavior I reported here some six months ago.  It is past time to give
credit where credit is due.  The following has been true for some time
now, but I have not seen it clearly stated here for the record:

Composer will produce html code that sails through both W3C and Bobby

In May and June I sent a flurry of email to Netscape (and Microsoft
regarding FrontPage) and cross posted to several mainstream user group
lists.  I was never given a hint that the two misbehaviors I noted
(missing DOCTYPE, &nbsp; after graphics) were legitimate complaints, let
alone were being corrected!  It is only my huge ego that allows me to
believe that these concerns were addressed because of me.  Thank you
very much.  You are quite welcome.

Composer still coverts <EM> and <STRONG> to the the _vastly inferior_
<I> and <B>.  Possibly more objectionably, it also coverts <CITE> (and
who knows what else) to <I> as well.  Composer is still fond of
superfluous &nbsp; but not so much as to cause Bobby errors.  Composer
favors <BR> over <P> when you are writing in the editor, but it no
longer automatically replaces all <P> with <BR> when you edit a
preexisting html source.

Even though all of the above behavior is wrong headed, I can live with
these idiosyncrasies.  This is because of the following advantages:

1)	The software is very inexpensive.  Free is hard to beat.  Better yet,
it's not Microsoft!

2)	The html editor is very similar to the html browser.  This makes it
user-friendly of course.  I prefer that a novice composes html with
their browser rather than with the built-in html tools of their
preferred word processor.  This avoids all sorts of potential problems
(e.g., the mechanics of conversion and posting, documents formatted as a
binary WordPerfect file when they LOOK like asci/html) and provides some
degree of separation in the user's mind between word processing and html

3)	The actual mechanics of posting are very simple (click publish) and
can be hidden from the novice without the person being given passwords. 
The template pages I will supply folks will include links to the W3C and
Bobby validators (pointing to their starter page).  This facilitates
their checking of their page after they have posted it.

There are potential pitfalls with my (planned) approach.

1)	The person might not learn html.

2)	Security is somewhat compromised since we are using an ISP that (of
course) provides only one password for our entire site.  If someone can
post stuff regarding their program they can post stuff regarding the
entire agency.  I am not worried about malicious behavior so much as I
am accidents.  I will get around this problem by setting up directories
on our site.  If someone edits and publishes a page from a different
department, they will end up with a (modified) copy in their directory
that will not have any links to it.

This whole discussion is only relevant to organizations that have a
small number (but greater than one) of people producing modest amounts
of html.  If anyone is in a similar situation (that is, having
non-technical people write and publish clean accessible html) I would
appreciate hearing from you!  Do you think using Netscape Communicator
suite facilitates this?  It will still be some time before anyone is
helping me with my html work.  

Thanks very much for your time on this.

FYI, this thread died (on and off the list), so there was no new
information for me to share with the group until now.

Bruce Bailey

> My many thanks to the several people who have responded privately to my
> initial post.  I will endevor to ensure that the most salient points are
> posted here.
> The consensus so far:
> 1) FrontPage is quirky and you still have to know html to use it.
> 2) It doesn't take much work to correct Communicator pages.
> 3) Other packages MIGHT do the trick.
> I am still not satisfied.
> The beauty of Communicator is that, once it is set up, a neophyte can 1)
> select "edit", 2) make changes, 3) select "publish" AND THEY ARE DONE! 
> The person doesn't have to know anything about ftp or html.  (For that
> matter, they don't even need to know a password, but this only works
> with one account/directory.)  When you add to this that the person is
> using software (the browser) that they are already comfortable with, we
> are talking about a NEAR ZERO learning curve.
> Even editing one line of code destroys the simplicity here.
> Does anyone know of a way to modify Communicator's behavior?  Would the
> commercial versions address this need?
> How is it that no one at Netscape or Microsoft worries about producing
> html 4.0 compliant code?
> Thanks,
> Bruce Bailey
>> From:  Bruce Bailey[SMTP:bbailey@clark.net]
>> Sent:  Wednesday, May 13, 1998 1:50 PM
>> To:  'Web Accessibility Initiative'
>> Subject:  Using htlm editors to produce clean code?
>> Has anybody had success using Microsoft FrontPage or Navigator Gold to
>> generate html code that parses through Bobby or the W3C Validator without
>> errors?
>> I am confortable with html and text editors, but I need to find tools that
>> our secretaries can use without learning html.
>> Front Page generates way too much extraneous code and actually makes it
>> difficult to put in good alt text.  It's really overkill for what I am
>> looking for, since it is site-oriented instead of page oriented.  I
>> envision giving responsibility for one-page-per-person for our site
>> (eventually -- smile).  Communicator's editor is not too bad from this
>> point.  You really can browse a site live, edit, publish -- all without
>> knowing many details.  I hate that Communicator favors appearance tags vice
>> logical ones (<B> and <I> instead of <STRONG> and <EM>), but only fails me
>> on two points:
>>         1)  It won't include the <!DOCTYPE... statement
>>         2)  It puts nbsp; after graphics in table cells which causes a Bobby error
>> since my tables now mix graphics and text.
>> Does anyone know how to defeat either of the above two behaviors?
>> Thanks very much for your time.
>> Bruce Bailey
>> www.dors.state.md.us
Received on Monday, 16 November 1998 15:23:31 UTC

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